Tag Archives: Solomon

Va Yak’hel

Inspired Va Yikahel sig

“Inspired Workmanship” by Laya Crust

In the previous Torah reading, “Ki Tissa”, we read about the sin of “the golden calf”. Just to remind you, Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God and bring them down to the Israelites below.  When Moses didn’t arrive at the expected time the nation grew worried and anxious, fearing that something bad had happened. They demanded a god, an idol,  to pray to. Breaking off their jewellery they fashioned a golden calf. The nation was punished by God. The golden calf was destroyed and three thousand men were killed.

In this week’s Torah reading Moshe invited all the people, whoever was generous of heart, ” נדיב לבו“, to bring forward gold, silver, brass, dyed linen and goats’ hair, wood, oil, spices, and precious gems. All these materials would be used to craft holy objects for the mishkan. The items to be crafted were listed and described, and  the people came forward with all that had been requested. The magnificence is described close on the heels of the sin of fashioning the golden calf. 

Wasn’t it contradictory- to punish the people for creating a golden calf but then command them to make expensive objects to be used in religious observance? The Israelites loved ornamentation and beauty. They gave their gold and precious jewelry to Aaron to make an idol to replace the absent Moshe. The answer to this seeming contradiction is in the wording.

Phrases like “wise hearted”  and “willing of heart” appear 15 times in this parsha. Only individuals who were wise hearted and generous could see past the expense and glitter of the materials through to the purpose of  prayer and service to God.  Those who are wise and generous can understand and facilitate elevation of spirit.

Beauty feeds the soul and God understood- and understands this. This parsha acknowledges the need the Israelites had for something beautiful and tangible to help them find comfort and help the on their journey.

Image result for 1299, Perpignan manuscript illumination

1299, Perpignan

Bezalel was chosen to be head architect and designer. He was filled with the spirit of God, with creativity, with understanding and with the knowledge of all kinds of craft. His aide, Oholiab, was also filled with wisdom of heart. Men and women were all invited to contribute and participate in the building of the mishkan and all the objects within it as long as they were generous of heart.

The value God places on creativity is the theme of my illustrationThe vessels are the brass pieces used in the mishkan. The painting is based on a  beautiful and timeless illumination from 1299, Perpignan, Aragon.  The two quotations are from the parsha:  “Take from among you an offering of the Lord, whoever is of a willing heart let them bring it…” (35:5)     “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing of heart.” (35:22) The sparkling watercolour wash behind the quotations represents imagination and spirituality.

So, artists, artisans, wood workers, poets, musicians, playwrights, weavers, silversmiths,  authors, painters, dancers, photographers and potters, when you work with integrity and inspiration remember that it is God’s gift to you. This is your contribution to the spiritual beauty of the world.

Have Shabbat Shalom- one full of beauty and joy and of course – creative thinking. Hoping for peace and equality in the world,

Laya

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Yosef and Yehuda

Joseph’s Dream by Laya Crust

This week’s parsha- “VaYeishev” (and he dwelled) is the beginning of a long, long narrative devoted to the life and adventures of Joseph, Jacob’s favourite son. In unusual detail 4 weeks of Torah readings, 13 chapters of text, are dedicated to Joseph’s trajectory from being a shepherd’s son to becoming second in command to the ruler of a large and powerful nation. In this parsha we do get another story as well, the story of Yehuda and Tamar. What I will do today is compare the paths of these two brothers.

Jacob’s Gift to Joseph by Laya Crust

Our parsha begins stating that Isaac loved Joseph more than all his other children, and made him a striped, or multi -coloured, coat. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and aggravated by him, especially after he shared his dreams of grandeur with his brothers. Not only had he been given a regal coat by his father, but shared the dream in which his entire family bowed down to him. The brothers were so angry they decided to kill him. Yehuda was the one sibling who spoke up and convinced them not to murder Joseph, rather they should sell him to passing traders.


  by Laya Crust

As the stories play out we witness certain events in the lives of Yehuda and Yosef.  Yosef was the favoured son, given a regal gift by his doting father. He had dreams of grandeur then was abruptly thrown into a pit and sold into slavery. In Egypt he was bought by Potiphar, rose to a position of responsibility within Potiphar’s home, then was thrown into jail because of Potiphar’s jealous and conniving wife. In prison he once again rose to a position of influence where he interpreted two dreams. Ultimately he was taken out of jail to again interpret two dreams for the Pharaoh. Through his correct interpretation of the dreams he became Grand Vizier over of all of Egypt. He became a leader, and a man of power.

Yehuda had a very different path. He iwa the fourth son of Isaac and Leah and barely mentioned until the incident where he saved Yosef from death. There is an unexpected story in the midst of this parsha featuring Yehuda and Tamar, his daughter-in-law.  Yehuda “went down from his brothers” and married an unnamed Canaanite woman. They had three sons. The oldest, Er,  married a woman named Tamar. Er was punished by God and died, so Yehuda had his next son, Onan, marry Tamar. Onan also sinned and was punished by God and died. Yehuda thought the deaths were Tamar’s fault. Instead of taking care of her he sent her away ostensibly until his third son, Shuah, could marry her. When years passed and Tamar realized she would forever be forgotten she took matters into her own hands. She dressed as a lady of the night.  Yehuda, not knowing her identity, slept with her. It’s an interesting story. Ultimately Tamar was to be punished for being a harlot. When Tamar proved to Yehuda that her situation had been untenable due to his  wrongful actions Yehuda took responsibility.  Tamar gave birth to twins. Her son Perez was the first of the Davidic line. Later in the Yosef narrative Yehuda took a lead role in Egypt and attempted to alleviate and solve difficult issues.

These different paths of Yehuda and Yosef are thought provoking. Yosef was the favoured and talented son. He consistently became a leader wherever he lived. Each time he was toppled from his position he would rise again, becoming an advisor, an interpreter, and a leader. It would have been logical for him to be seen as the next leader of the Jewish people. Why did that role fall to Yehuda?

When we look at Yehuda’s life we see that he made some challenging decisions. He disagreed with his brothers and convinced them to let Yosef live. He left his father’s home to marry a Canaanite woman. This seems to have been against the family culture. Remember, Isaac went to Padan Aram in order to avoid marrying a Canaanite. It is possible that he wanted to leave behind the fighting and jealousy rife within his family. By separating from them and marrying a Canaanite he could live a more straightforward life, one without bickering and rivalry. His integrity is obvious in how he honoured Tamar’s testimony and how he was the first of the brothers to step forward and try to negotiate with the Grand Vizier of Egypt. In contrast Yosef was a product of circumstance. He didn’t take strong initiative. His intelligence, talent, and of course God’s guidance helped him through each step of his interesting life.

We are called “Yehudim”- Jews- named after Yehuda, the fourth son.

King Solomon by Laya Crust

King David, our greatest king, and King Solomon who built the Temple in Jerusalem descended from Yehuda. And the Messiah is from that same line. Yehuda was the son who knew that to lead a life of observance and truth he had to separate himself from the pettiness and jealousy that weakened his birth family. He retained his identity and love of God while separating from the in fighting. He joined in the family events and family crises while preserving his integrity.

I hope we can all learn to do the same, to retain our identity and Jewish faith while separating ourselves from what is petty and negative. And like Yosef- may we be able to interpret our dreams for good and follow our dreams to create a better world.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

 

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Days of Joy

Terumah sigart by Laya Crust

Parsha- Terumah (Exodus 25:1 – 27:19)

Haftarah-  Kings I,  5:26-6:13

This year the month of Adar began on the evening of February 9, 2016. And, we don’t have one Adar, but 2 months of Adar. Yes- it’s a Jewish leap year, a year when we add another month so that our lunar calendar lines up, more or less, with the solar calendar. It’s an interesting topic and you can read about it at  Months of the Jewish Year – My Jewish Learning  or for a more mind boggling explanation you can go to Leap years , an article from wikipedia.

Terumah might just be a perfect reading for the beginning of Adar. The parsha deals with the instructions Gd gives for building a holy sanctuary. The haftarah parallels this with a description of the work King Solomon instituted for building the Beit haMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem.

At the beginning of the parsha Gd says, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me contributions; you shall accept contributions for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.”  (25:2) The gifts Gd is referring to are precious building materials for the sanctuary .

The wording is precise, “אשר ידבנו ולבּו”.  Those with a willing heart” are invited to contribute to the building of this important sanctuary.  The building materials are given with generosity and joy. Resentment won’t taint the sanctuary of prayer and guidance. The idea of giving with generosity and joy rather than giving through coercion or compulsion (like many taxes and levies) fits nicely with the joy of Adar.

Adar is called the month of joy, and so having 2 Adars means we get to celebrate 60 days of joy. What could be better? My friend Esther Gur gave a talk in which she discussed the meaning of “simcha” (joy or happiness) in the month of Adar. My interpretation of what she said is that joy or happiness is not the simplicity of laughing at jokes. It’s not the fleeting pleasure of drinking a good glass of wine; or buying a new book, piece of clothing or electronic device.  “Simcha” is related to fulfillment. When we create something beautiful or do something good- doing it from a place of generosity not from a feeling of duty- we feel “simcha” or heartfelt joy.

In these two months of Adar I hope you give yourself the opportunity to do things you really love and give you great satisfaction. Enjoy and HAPPY ADAR!

Have a Shabbat Shalom

Laya

P.S. The painting at the top is based on a ketubah from 1853 Istanbul, Turkey. It shows boats floating on the Bosphorous River. I f you want to enlarge the image at the top or the ketubah below you can click on them.

istanbul ketubah02

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Vayechi

Va'yechi Sigartwork by Laya Crust

1 Kings 2:1- 12

King David, on his deathbed, giving guidance to his son Solomon who will become King.

Today is January 1, 2015, the first day of the new year on the Gregorian calendar. (FYI: It was named the Gregorian calendar after the man who first introduced it in February 1582: Pope Gregory XIII.)

Both the haftarah and the parsha are narratives of handing over the reigns of power. In the parsha Yaakov, on his deathbed, describes each of his sons. He goes on to predict how they will lead their lives. In the haftarah King David tells Solomon to vanquish their enemies, be strong and  follow Gd’s laws. Each of these men- Yaakov and David- recognize that the end of their lives is a new beginning for their sons. The new era will hopefully be easier and better than the era being left behind.

New Year’s is seen in the same way in our Western culture. We look at our ups and downs from the past year and make “New Year’s Resolutions” in the hope of having a better and/or more successful year.  In Judaism we have a beautiful prayer we say each morning, “My Gd, the soul You placed within me  is pure. You created it. You fashioned it, You breathed it into me. You safeguard it within me and eventually you will take it from me and restore it to me in time to come. As long as the soul is within me I gratefully thank you my Gd and Gd of my forefathers, Master of all works, Lord of all souls…”

Morning Prayer0059abstraction of prayer by Laya Crust

Each day we have the opportunity to see our life as a new beginning. Each day we have the opportunity to make a change for the better, face a challenge, or make a fresh start.

In this week’s texts Yaakov and David, reflecting on their own lives, were giving their sons guidance in how to look ahead. Their sons could take the exhortations as face value reflection and advice, or could take them on a more profound level. The deeper level would be for the sons to listen to their father’s and ask themselves- “What can I change in myself in order to heed this wisdom and at the same time beome a better person using the wisdom?”

In the same way we can greet January 1, and remind ourselves we can do things we love, that make us feel good, and are beneficial to others. On the same note when we read the prayer thanking Gd and we remind ourselves that we have a fresh soul each day.We can use the newness of each day to move ourseleves towards a greater ideal.

So- Happy New Year, Happy New Day, and enjoy the readings this week! Click on the images to enlarge them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Va Yak’hel

Va Yikahel sig

Kings I  7: 40 – 50

King Solomon- c. 979 BCE – 927 BCE. He was known for his wisdom, wealth and poetry.

This week’s Torah reading describes the creation of holy objects for the mishkan. It describes the materials- the gold, silver, brass, precious stones, and materials for spinning fabric. The haftarah describes the crafted vessels for King Solomon’s Temple. The magnificence is described close on the heels of the sin of fashioning the golden calf. 

Isn’t it contradictory- to punish the people for creating a golden calf but then command them to make expensive objects to be used in religious observance? They loved ornamentation and beauty. They gave their gold and precious jewelry to Aaron to make an idol to replace the absent Moshe. The answer to the contradiction is in the wording.

Phrases like “wise hearted”  and “willing of heart” appear 15 times in this parsha.  

That is the difference between the mishkan and the Temple; and the golden calf which is an idol. Only individuals who were wise hearted and generous could see past the expense and glitter of the materials through to the purpose of the prayer and service to God.  Those who are wise and generous can understand and facilitate elevation of spirit.

In this parsha my two sides are recognized- the entity of artist and the entity of womanhood.  Women are often disregarded in our writings, but here  men and women are recognized equally as being wise hearted and willing hearted.

The value God places on creativity was the theme of my illustrationThe vessels are based on one of the beautiful and timeless illuminations from 1299, Perpignan, Aragon.  The watercolour wash represents imagination and spirituality. The two quotations are from the parsha:  “Take from among you an offering of the Lord, whoever is of a willing heart let them bring it…” (35:5)     “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing of heart.” (35:22)

So you artists, artisans, wood workers, poets, musicians, playwrights, weavers, silversmiths, etc. etc.- when you work with integrity and inspiration remember that it is God’s gift to you. This is your contribution to the spiritual beauty of the world.

Have Shabbat Shalom- one full of beauty and joy and of course – creative thinking.

**When you “click” on the illustration it will enlarge.

**If you like this posting share it with your friends on Facebook and leave a comment.

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Terumah

Terumah sig

Kings I,  5:26-6:13

King Solomon –  Succeeded David as King in the year  967 B.C.E.

King Solomon ruled for 40 years. He was known for his wisdom, his wealth and his writings. The haftarah and Torah portion both discuss the construction of HaShem’s “home”. In parshat Terumah G-d tells Moses that the children of Israel should make G-d a sanctuary (called a mishkan in Hebrew). Beautifully, G-d includes EVERYONE who wants to be included the project. He says to accept contributions from everyone who has a willing heart.

This announcement is followed by a list of materials that are needed to build the mishkan. It is quite an undertaking to build a portable sanctuary in the desert, but the plans are dictated and this how it may have looked. 

The haftarah is about the construction of King Solomon’s  most famous achievement – building the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The construction of the Temple under King Solomon’s reign began around 958 B.C.E. The trees (cedars and cypress) and stones were imported from Lebanon. I began to imagine how the materials were transported from Lebanon southward to Jerusalem- over mounatins, through forests, all uncultivated terrain. The idea is daunting. There were huge numbers of men involved in the production. Thirty thousand men went to Lebanon in shifts of 10,000 men, one month at a time. Seventy thousand men carried the loads. Eighty thousand men quarried the mountains. 3,300 men were appointed as overseers. It made me think of the building of the national railway in Canada!

The haftarah doesn’t describe how the stones and lumber were carried to Jerusalem. I thought about the technology of the time. Would the material be carried on ox carts? On flatbeds with wheels? With a pulley system? It seemed impossible. Then I realized- these large, heavy materials were probably transported on the Mediterranean Sea down the coast to the nearest port, and then overland to Jerusalem. The logs could have been floated down and the quarried stone could have been taken by ship or rafts. I immediately remembered a beautiful ketubah- a favourite design of mine- from 1853 Istanbul, Turkey. istanbul ketubah02It shows two large, beautiful trees on the banks of the Bosphorous River with boats sailing in the water.

This image seemed perfect for the haftarah with its abundance of trees, elaborate structures and many side chambers extending from the central building. And the flowers and the leaves!  We see the vivid florals and fruits within the foliage. (We know that there were pomegranates and lilies on the columns in the Temple.)

This ketubah, unlike many other historical  ketuboth, is painted on paper rather than parchment. The artist used watercolour and gold leaf on the artwork. The profusion of foliage is typical of ketuboth from Turkey and other Muslim countries. The leaves and flowers are painted very closely together and the dark green  of the leaves creates a wonderful undulating movement in the decoration. As is typical of these ketuboth the text is written in tiny cursive lettering centered within the arched opening allocated for lettering.

All that building and transportation mentioned in the haftarah text resulted in a beautiful structure. Unlike the mishkan which was dictated by G-d, the Temple was designed by people.

Quite an amazing feat for thousands of years ago. We don’t have the beauty of the Temple today, and we pray for its return. In the meantime haShem has blessed artists and artisans with the ability to create beautiful objects with which to enhance our daily lives and our special occasions. And thus- the beautiful ketubah from 1853 Istanbul.
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